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ICTs for a Sustainable World #ICT4SDG

ITU Symposium on ICTs, the Environment and Climate Change

Montreal, Canada, 29 May 2012

Opening Remarks

Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Bonjour et bienvenue!
Good morning and welcome!

Thank you Ambassador Saint Jacques and Director General Leduc for your kind welcoming words.

On behalf of the ITU Secretary-General I would like to thank Industry Canada for co-organising this event and Bruce Gracie for agreeing to chair it. Also thank Prompt for hosting this event, and especially Charles Despins, President and CEO of Prompt, for his continued interest in our symposia ever since the first one in Kyoto in April 2008.

It is a great pleasure to be here with you today to make some opening remarks to what I am sure will be an extremely interesting and lively discussion on the vital topic of ICTs, the environment and climate change.

Canada is noted the world over for its spectacular and diverse nature, and the Canadian’s love of the outdoor life is well known. This has led to an enlightened environmental policy that keeps much of Canada in pristine condition, allowing people to enjoy untouched environments.

In particular, in the largest Province of what is the second largest country in the world, Quebec, it is encouraging to see the leadership of the Quebec government in recognizing the Green ICT opportunity and committing significant funding, notably 30 million dollars along with an industry contribution of 40 million dollars, to a major initiative on this theme.

At the same time, Canada plays a vital monitoring role – the state of the ice shelf to the north is of vital importance not just to Canada – but to the whole world.

ICTs now permeate our lives – there are an estimated 6 billion mobile phone users, and 2.4 billion Internet users.

The incredible growth in ICTs has many different implications. Unless we manage to get in place intelligent standards for energy-efficient devices, the strong growth of ICTs will also mean strong growth in the power needed to run ICTs.

However, the widespread use and application of ICTs – in our industries and businesses and social life – offers the best chance of achieving the reductions in the total global greenhouse gas emissions that the climate experts calculate as being essential.

ICTs can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in many ways: smart grids; smart water management; intelligent transport systems; e-health; e-government; teleworking and teleconferencing.

ITU’s Symposia on “ICTs, the Environment and Climate Change”, which began in Kyoto in 2008, have provided vivid examples of how ICTs can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, helping countries adapt to climate change.

I recall at that time in 2008 often being asked: what has ITU got to do with climate change? When we began participating in the UN Climate Change conferences in order to raise awareness of the significant role ICTs can play, we often had to start by explaining what ICTs were!

Fortunately due to the subsequent six symposia held in London, Quito, Seoul, Cairo, and Accra and persistent lobbying at successive Climate Change Conferences, the message seems to be getting through.

We very much hope that the Technology Transfer mechanism agreed in Durban at COP17 will encourage the implementation of ICT projects to help adapt and mitigate to climate change.

The key components for a successful strategy are a combination of policies and regulatory incentives that encourage the use of ICTs to combat climate change at the international, regional, and national levels. Active participation in international climate change discussions, and engagement in the design of technology solutions and standards is essential.

To this end ITU, as the UN specialized agency responsible for ICTs, is playing a leading role in developing these policies, regulatory frameworks, innovative solutions, and international ICT standards that enable monitoring, promote adaptation and mitigation, and reduce energy consumption.

ITU does this through its world conferences on developmental policies, international standardization, and our international treaties on the use of the radio spectrum and the satellite orbit, and international telecommunications. The later treaty will be revised in Dubai in December this year. The last time it was revised in 1988 there was little or no thought about how ICTs could contribute to combating climate change, this symposium might like to consider whether it would now be appropriate to make such a reference in what is the only truly global treaty on international telecommunications.

Academia and research institutions have a major role to play. This is why, since the beginning of last year, ITU is encouraging academia and research institutions to become members of ITU, at a substantially reduced membership fee, so as to contribute to this essential activity, especially innovation, together with our government and industry members.

This the 7th ITU Symposium on ICTs, the environment and climate change comes at an opportune time ahead the Rio +20 Summit. Failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change will compromise the attainment of the MDGs and further the Sustainable Development Goals that which will be adopted by the Rio +20 Summit. I hope we will be able to agree a call for action from this symposium to the delegates at Rio+20, as well as the COP-18, and the ITU conferences in Dubai later this year: the World Telecommunications Standardization Assembly and the World Conference on International telecommunications.

Let me thank you all for participating in this event, especially our speakers and moderators, and in particular the Honourable Minister of Communications, Ghana, Haruna Idrissu, who has been a strong supporter of ITU’s climate change activities. We have a very exciting programme and I am sure that the discussions here this week will lead us to identifying further actions that ITU and its partners can implement to help to preserve our beautiful planet.

Thank you very much.